Helping college students find meaning

FOCUS missionaries serve on college campuses meeting students where they are

FAIRFAX, VA.
By Joseph Austin

A diverse group of young college women lounged on couches at the entrance of the George Mason University Student Union on a recent afternoon.

Ninoska Moratin, a campus missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, better known as FOCUS, entreated the students to review their week as she began the Bible study.

"(A) bud is something you're looking forward to, and thorns are … bad (things) that happen," Moatin told them.

The daughter of a Nicaraguan mother and a Dominican Republic father, she has devoted almost two years of her life to serving God within the many different cultural communities at George Mason University in Fairfax. On Tuesdays, she attends a weekly Salsa Club, where she dances and talks with students.

"I explain to them (that) in my heart I know (the faith is) important and that I love it," she said.

Chris Rothschild, FOCUS team director at the University of Maryland in College Park, has put his career as a biochemist on hold for three years "to share the meaning my life." He wants to show students that "I was in your shoes and thought the same thing, but was wrong. Here's the meaning in my life (now)."

A convert to the Catholic faith, Rothschild joined the fellowship immediately following his senior year of college.

"I recognized the great brokenness we have in our own culture," he said.

Young people cheer during a concert at FOCUS’ Seek 2013 convention in Orlando earlier this year. FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, has missionaries serving on 74 campuses across the country to help college students discover Christ in their lives. Photo credit: Jason Siegel
Young people cheer during a concert at FOCUS’ Seek 2013 convention in Orlando earlier this year. FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, has missionaries serving on 74 campuses across the country to help college students discover Christ in their lives. Photo credit: Jason Siegel.


One-on-one discipleship
Moratin, who grew up in a Catholic family, was curious about the organization and decided to apply to be a missionary after spending time as a student leader.

"I love my job," she said, explaining that she and her fellow FOCUS missionaries promote the virtues of chastity, sobriety and excellence as a way to address what many describe as three main vices confronting students in college — the hookup culture, drunkenness and procrastination.

Rothschild, who grew up not knowing his father, has spent the last three years of his life as a missionary to "lead the next generation of fathers, husbands and businessmen (toward Christ)," he said.

"Our staff members are … often found eating in the cafeterias on campus, playing intramural sports, staying up late in coffee shops … throwing spontaneous BBQs," said a statement on the group’s website, www.focus.org.

FOCUS missionaries meet students where they’re at through one-on-one discipleship, group Bible studies and many other events. Because FOCUS sees each campus as unique, the missionaries tailor their outreach to best meet the needs of students on the campus they are serving.

‘Ask questions and discover Christ’
"Many have not personally encountered Jesus Christ. We need to reach the entire world, and the way to do it is to reach American university students," said Curtis Martin, president of FOCUS, which has its headquarters in Genesee, Colo.

According to Jeremy Rivera, national director of marketing and communications at FOCUS, the organization has about 361 missionaries serving 74 campuses across the country and has hired 160 new missionaries this year.

Donors known as "mission partners" take an active role in the life of every missionary by funding their salary, which averages $25,000 to $30,000, a year, according to the website. In addition to their daily activities of evangelizing college students, FOCUS missionaries spend time developing a relationship with those donors.

Moratin challenges her peers to "ask questions and discover Christ."

"Don't be so open-minded that your brain falls out," Moratin tells them, paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton.

"When we make our own plans," they are limited, said Rothschild, who urges students to trust in the Lord. "Do something. Don't just sit there and complain about it," he added. "Be the difference you want to see in the world."

Catholic News Service - June 5, 2013